Category: 1960s

Memories of the 1960s: Issue VI – Shopping

My 1960s Memories has proved popular, so here is another: Shopping.

There is a permanent page for Memories of the 1960s here.

Shopping was confusing in the 1960s, even if you only had pocket money of one shilling to spend, as I did.

Threepenny Bit
Threepenny Bit

The old system of currency could be traced back to the Roman Empire and was based on the penny, symbolised by the letter ‘d’ for denari. Under this system, there were 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings, or 240 pence, in a pound. Needless to say, for a kid whose mathematical skills were still developing, I needed one of my parents with me to shop for anything at all!

Continue reading “Memories of the 1960s: Issue VI – Shopping”

Competition to Win Free, Signed Paperback of Screaming Angels!

My new romantic spy novel Screaming Angels published!

To celebrate, I will be giving away one, signed copy  of Screaming Angels to my Newsletter readers in a competition on 16 October at 5pm BST. To sign up for the Newsletter before then, click here or go to the menu  at the top of this page.

Continue reading “Competition to Win Free, Signed Paperback of Screaming Angels!”

It’s Christmas: Nominate your Movie Turkey!

At the Earth's Core
At the Earth’s Core

It wouldn’t be Christmas without turkey and if indigestion hasn’t already set in, maybe there’s space for a bit more? What is your top nomination for movie Turkeys? It doesn’t have to be a Christmas movie but just one so bad that you either reach for the remote or fall asleep.

How to spot a Turkey Movie

Turkey movies can be hard to pick out: you often don’t remember their names or who’s in them. But of course if its a sequel or a remake it has a very good chance of being a Turkey! Some movies are so bad they are actually fun and good for a few laughs. These aren’t those movies.

Here are some of mine. Add yours, either by commenting or on Facebook or Twitter.

  • Breakthrough – 1979: This sequel to the iconic Cross of Iron had nothing to recommend it except Richard Burton so drunk he had to be carried onto the set every day.
  • The Hobbit Trilogy – 2012/13/14: Sorry if I just made you choke on your chockies or turkey but, as a lifelong fan of Tolkien books, I think this trilogy lacks the quaint charm of the original or the grandeur of Lord of the Rings. The director tried to stretch and I am afraid he broke it. I reserve opinion on the dragon one because so far I haven’t seen it! Virgin Media doesn’t have it and it seems to have escaped schedulers on TV although the others haven’t!
  • At the Earth’s Core – 1976: This beauty stars Doug McClure (remember Trampas from The Virginian?) and Peter Cushing. Its kind of like Journey to the Centre of the Earth but with props you can throw together from scrap at a film studio. The beasts (whose name escapes me!) are just people dressed up and the WORST SPECIAL EFFECT I have ever seen. Watch out for Cy Grant (who did the voice for Captain Scarlet), the lovely Caroline Munro and a young Keith Baron. Oh and in case you are wondering, the film is so bad its almost good, but Cushing’s bumbling professor is just too over the top to get this film off the hook. In some scenes you can almost see McClure thinking, “Are they actually going to release this?”
  • Alexander – 2004: Colin Farrel stars as Alexander the Great. I think he must have resented doing this film because he actually exaggerates his own Irish accent and the film just becomes absurd! Truly un-watchable.
  • The Man with the Iron Fists – 2012: I can only think they got Russell Crowe to do this by promising to make The Water Diviner. It has Asian orgies (including Crowe going down on a few girls!!!), martial arts, a kind of Iron Man think going and just about everything else. I stuck with it but it was clear it was just a vehicle for the rapper who starred in it. Set in the mid 19th Century??? possibly??? when the baddies came on wearing Ray Bans I was shouting at the screen “Nooooooo!”
  • Babylon A.D. – 2008: Well, what can I say except that I fell asleep after half an hour. I wouldn’t include it but for the fact I woke half hour before the end and the end was as bad as the beginning. Just boring!
  • Reunion in France – 1942: This monstrosity stars John Wayne as US pilot shot down over France and trying to escape with the help of a bourgeois woman. Forgetting that Wayne was far too old to play a front line pilot by then (and probably too tall!), he doesn’t bother to act, the sets are probably cardboard and the plot would be more appropriate in an Abbott and Costello film! Why on earth Wayne’s characters have to give the lead female a male nickname I dunno, but it kind of makes me queasy in this case (Michelle becomes Mike!).
  • Living Free – 1972: This sequel to Born Free probably ended up in the bins of cinemas faster than any other movie in that decade. Watch it if you dare!
  • The Silver Chalice – 1954: Paul Newman’s first starring role. If you can get beyond the first ten minutes, please call us or a doctor; you need medical attention.
  • The Secret Invasion – 1954: I wish I could say this was Stewart Grainger’s last movie. That would at least offer him some excuse but it wasn’t. If you wanted to make a war movie on the tightest budget possible, this would be one way. The only props are a few sub-machine guns. Dire! Dire! Dire!
  • The Battle of the Last Panzer – 1969: My third war movie looks promising but isn’t.

There are apparently some William Shatner films, made in Europe in the early 70s, that are so bad they will never see the like of day. If anybody has seen one, let me know!

Hope this didn’t give you indigestion! Let me have your nominations by commenting. Nominations end 3 January. Then we vote!

Memories of the 1960s: Issue V – Music

There is a permanent page for Memories of the 1960s here.

The Small Faces
The Small Faces

In many ways this is the hardest post I have made about the 1960s and it has taken me a long time to decide to make it. Many writers have tried and failed to capture the magic and disillusionment of 60s music and I most surely must fail too. But that won’t stop me ‘taking a shot’ at it, as Americans like to say, or ‘having a ago’ as Brits like to say.

I am not just talking about something in remote history when I talk about music from that era; I actually remember music of the 1960s. The first song I remember is Puppet on a String, which of course won the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest (yes, we had it then too!) for Sandie Shaw. I would have been 5 but I well remember the catchy tune blasting out of BBC Radio 1 on our little, blue radio set in the kitchen, or in my bedroom when I was sick, which was often. Continue reading “Memories of the 1960s: Issue V – Music”

Poll: Which is the best Scifi Vehicle Ever?

Elevator vehicle under Fireflash from Thunderbirds
Elevator vehicle under Fireflash from Thunderbirds

Another great vote this week; which is the best scifi vehicle of all time?

The choice is HUGE but below are just a few suggestions to get you started. Please nominate your favourites by commenting here or tweet me @Lazlo_F or message me on Facebook. The nomination deadline will be 22 June at 5pm. Then we will vote!

Ein weiterer großer Stimme in dieser Woche; Welches ist das beste SciFi Fahrzeug aller Zeiten?

Die Auswahl ist riesig Gewinn Hier sind nur ein paar Vorschläge, um Ihnen den Einstieg. Bitte benennen Sie Ihre Favoriten von hier zu kommentieren oder tweet ich Lazlo_F gold Nachricht auf mich Facebook. Der Nominierungsfrist wird am 22. Juni 17.00 Uhr sein. Dann werden wir abstimmen! Continue reading “Poll: Which is the best Scifi Vehicle Ever?”

Competition: Can you name the 1960s toy?

To tie in with my recent series on Memories of the 1960s, I am running a competition. It won’t be easy but then my books are worth it! Name all five of the following correctly and win a free eBook of any of my published novels. Entries close at midnight GMT Sunday, 5 October 2014. Please comment with your entry to claim your prize!  There is a bonus object to win 2 eBooks!

1.

toy 1
toy 1

 

 

(car manufacturer and type)

 

 

 

2.

toy 1
toy 1

 

 

(car manufacturer and type)

 

 

3.

toy 3
toy 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.

toy 4
toy 4

 

 

(car manufacturer and type)

 

 

 

 

 

5.

toy 5
toy 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: For all toy cars, I don’t want the toy manufacturer but only the manufacturer and type of the real car.

 

 

BONUS!

If you can name this gem (not actually a toy but close) as well, you win 2 eBooks!

 

item 6
item 6

Profits from eBooks! and: Memories of the 1960s: Issue V – School

This week: Profits from eBooks! and: Memories of the 1960s: Issue V – School

Memories of the 1960s: Issue V – School

Typical 1960s English school buildings
Typical 1960s English school buildings

Prepare to have all the myths of how school was Heaven in the 60s blasted away and for myths that it was Hell to be destroyed. This is what it was like for me.

I spent my school years, until the age of fourteen, in Buckinghamshire. Now, I am not saying the true-blue ultra-conservative Buckinghhamshire is backward but the last time I looked at the council’s website it had chains running down each side! That was back in the 90s. In the 60s, they were just about as blue as you can get and they certainly believed in giving every child’s sanity a run for its money.

The Bucks model of education was simple: your kid had to pass their eleven-plus exam to get a proper education. Anything else was failure and rewarded with being sent to a ‘secondary-modern,’ which in Bucks meant a school for dunces. There you would never get the chance to do O’Levels or A’Levels and you would certainly never go to University. So every day of your school life, you were having the message ‘Success is everything’ rammed down your throat. Unfortunately, the flip-side of this philosophy was the message that ‘humanity is nothing.’ It was only many years later that we would all discover Hans Eysenick’s IQ based formula for the eleven-plus exam was all based on fake research.

My first memory is of the first day. I was five. I somehow managed to annoy the teachers, Mrs Barnes and Mrs Farrow, and was made to stand in the corner. My reputation as a trouble-maker seemed to grow from there. But in general, being made to sit next to girls and getting to play in the sun for hours couldn’t have seemed too bad in 1967. I actually remember many of us dancing to Yellow Submarine in the playground, a year later. We thought the song was a traditional song!

The School Day

Our day would begin with assembly, basically a church meeting complete with prayers and hymns, followed by our first lesson, a break of 15 minutes and another lesson until lunch at 12 noon. At 1 pm, later extended to 1.15 pm, we would have another lesson, then another break at 2 pm, followed by the last lesson and then home at 3 pm.

Sport

Sports Day
Sports Day

Once or twice per week, a whole morning or afternoon would be give over to sports. We had to play in any weather and in fact, we had to spend every break-time outside, even in the direst thunderstorm or the worst snow. Nobody questioned this. Undoubtedly the weirdest ‘sports’ experience I had was when we were split into pairs of a boy and girl and told to slap each other’s legs as hard as we could. I was lucky enough to be paired with Shirley, who was to become the love of my life after this! She had dark, curly hair, darting, intelligent eyes and the looks of a Thomas Hardy heroine although she said she had gypsy blood. I learned that she had strong legs too after slapping them for ten minutes. Why the Bucks education system considered this an acceptable game, I couldn’t tell you. Perhaps they thought a bit of S&M would teach women their places. Anyway, Shirley, if you are out there, sorry I was so good at slapping your legs.

Class sizes

With the baby-boom in full swing, class sizes rose to 58, in the case of mine. It was a scandal that was reported in the papers and parents protested. But there was nothing to be done. Nothing, that is, except get the children to teach. Yes! I’m not lying. As the best reader in my class, I was given my own remedial reading class which I took under the stairs near the entrance to the main block. It was a challenge because most of my small class of perhaps 8 readers had dyslexia. I can’t remember if I managed to improve their reading. I just knew they had a problem. It was only two years later, that one of those pupils, by this time a friend, was diagnosed with dyslexia.

School Dinners

School Dinners
School Dinners

Time to dish the dirty: school dinners in Bucks were crap! In fact, not only crap, but most of the time, inedible. All would be served in stainless steel containers, even the water, which was our only drink. The steel gave everything a certain ‘tang.’ I particularly hated the pilchards which were pickled in vinegar and tomato sauce. I hate vinegar anyway, it makes me sick, and the tomatoes used were so stewed that you couldn’t tell what they were any more. I used to hide my pilchards under the scoop of Smash (commercial mash potato which tasted like cotton wool). But then, Mrs Parks, the most evil teacher in the school, wised up to my technique and forced me to eat it while she held my spoon-hand firmly. I warned her:
“I will be sick on you if you make me eat this.”
She ignored me and, consequently, I vomited all over her skirt.
Besides the teachers, local women came in for lunchtime to watch over us, while the heads of each table, usually two children from the senior year, would serve the food frim the metal containers. We called them ‘Serving Ladies,’ one being Mrs. Rance.
Other odd dishes were: the strawberry blancmange which tasted of lipstick and stuck to the plate if you turned it upside down; swede; parsnips and jam pudding. All were prepared so badly that they put me off such food forever.
The only dishes I liked were: fried cod; semolina and chocolate sauce; chocolate sponge cake and shortcake biscuits with dollops of strawberry jam on top. In fact, a friend and I tried to eat as many portions of fried cod as we could and made ourselves sick this way!

Here are the 10 school dinner combinations I can remember:

Main Course:

Roast lamb with mint sauce, carrots and peas, boiled potatoes
Roast beef (and Yorkshire pudding – Yum), gravy, roasted potatoes
Toad in the hole (sausages in battered pudding), roasted potatoes, turnips
Battered cod fish (this was ok), chips, peas or carrots
Pilchards in vinegar with turnips, synthetic mashed potatoes (yuch!)
Kippers with swede, rice
Sausages with baked beans, synthetic mashed potatoes
Scrambled egg with baked beans, synthetic mashed potatoes
Liver with boiled potatoes, carrots or peas
Fishcakes or fish fingers with synthetic mashed potato and peas or carrots

Pudding:

Yellow blancmange (lemon)
Pink blancmange (raspberry)
Spotted dick (sponge with currants)
Shortbread biscuits with jam
Jam doughnuts
Semolina with chocolate sauce
Tapioca with jam
Rice pudding with jam
Chocolate sponge pudding (hot) with hot chocolate sauce

Slade - Merry Christmas Everybody
Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody

A special mention has to go out here to Douglas McKelvie, the head teacher, and the best teacher, of the school. I had him in my last year and hated him at first. He had the habit of running across the desk tops or flicking chalk at you, if you talked. He would often sit a boy next to a girl just to see what happened. In fact, even though I was desperate to sit next to Shirley, he put me next to Alison, a pretty blonde. The strange thing was that a few months later, my sister and I were sent to stay at the Alison’s house for the week before Christmas. To the eternal anthem of Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody (video) I tried to puzzle out what was going on. There were many things I didn’t understand about the Buckinghamshire education system; why did they line us all up from time to time and inject us with strange things called ‘typhoid jabs’ or run eye tests that showed us we had deficient vision and then try to force us to wear thick lenses which clearly (pun intended) made things worse? Why did they get boys to slap girls’ legs? But most of all, I wanted to know why the parents and school seemed to be in league, matchmaking, or indeed match-breaking, pupils?

In the autumn of 1974, it all came crashing to a ugly, heartbreaking halt for me. They had wanted to know my IQ for so long that I thought it might be some kind of biological substance inside me. Was I toxic? Every few weeks, we were given these strange tests called ‘mocks’. And then, without warning, I came to school one day and found the classroom desks equipped with a pencil, eraser and a stapled examination paper. It was the eleven-plus exam. There were three papers, the last in February or March. I did well at the first two and I had no reason to worry; I had scored 86% in the last mock exam. But late in the spring, the awful ‘results day’ came.
Buckinghamshire Council didn’t mess about. Douglas McKelvie called out each of our names and we went to the front of the class to collect our white envelope. If it was fat, you had passed but if it was thin, you were going to a secondary modern. Mine was thin.

Whether you liked it or not, within minutes, everyone knew everyone else’s results. Shirley has passed and would go on to Dr. Challoners High School for girls, the best school in the area. But worse than this, my friend, who had passed, and I had a fight. I don’t know for certain what it was about; my memory is that he teased me about failing and I insulted him back, calling him fat. That may be wrong. In any case, we ended up, that very day, on the playground tarmac, fighting it out. It was dirty and no-holds-barred. It was my first fight and I won. That I do remember clearly.

Was that the last time I saw Shirley? Actually, no. I cried for days at my own failure. Never has failure been driven home so absolutely as it was in Buckinghamshire. I lost most of my friends that day and I lost most of my hopes and dreams. Later, I would be saved when my parents moved to a different, more progressive county. Before the end of term, another girl organised a birthday for the summer holidays. I wasn’t invited. But I lobbied hard and managed to get in. It was a ‘Tramps’ party, in which you had to dress up as a – tramp. Who should be there but Shirley. My little autograph book had been all round the class on the last day of term and had every signature, except hers because she had been on holiday with her friends. Now was my chance to steal something! We played spin-the-bottle, a kissing game, and a kiss from Shirley would certainly be something worth stealing. Now, I have to mention here that Shirley had always been nice to me, she had taught me Origami under the stairs, but I had never had the guts to tell her how I felt, so I couldn’t call her my sweetheart. I had certainly never kissed her. But I was hopeful. In the end, the kissing gods were not on my side and I didn’t get the chance to kiss her. I didn’t even have the guts to ask her for a dance. I might well have said to myself:
“Welcome to the real world!”

What are your memories of the 1960s? Leave a comment below.

Download three free eBooks by clicking here: http://bit.ly/3fbsup
Profits from eBooks!

Finally, I have made a profit from a promotional campaign to promote one of my eBooks, Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate. We’re not talking big figures here, in fact, well less than $100. Nevertheless, It has taken me over a year to find something that works. From what other writers are telling me, it’s getting harder and harder to rake in the cash for eBooks. But I managed to beat the odds, at least once. Read on for how I did it:

I have tried marketing using twitter, Facebook paid adverts and google’s AdSense. For free downloads, Facebook’s adverts worked best but you are looking at upwards of $40 to get a couple of thousand downloads if you’re lucky. Of course, there is no money in that!

I have tried for almost a year (since hearing about them) to get on Bookbub and E Reader News Today (ENT) . I am still trying to get accepted for Bookbub, which costs at least $110, depending on genre, but have so far have been unsuccessful. I finally managed to get on ENT about a month ago and, what is more, they scheduled me for 5th July, a day after American Independence Day. I was delighted. But I wasn’t convinced it would draw any sales. Consequently, I signed up for (initially) 1 day of tweets from The Book Tweeting service. This was to be on the 4th July, just to get things going. It wouldn’t help the other sales but it’s always good to coordinate these things to get the highest rank possible. High Rank = More Sales.

By Saturday 5th July, I had seen no sales at all from hundreds of tweet to over 100,000 potential customers. I cancelled the second day of tweets although I must say, the staff were very friendly and helpful and did their best.

However, by midnight of the Saturday, I had already seen 8 solid sales from the E Reader News Today service. It works! I was delighted and will try them again, if they will have me.

Bargain book and Memories of the 1960s: Issue IV – Shopping

There is a permanent page for Memories of the 1960s here.

First of all, a heads up that Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate will be reduced to 99 cents from 4-8 July on Amazon. Please note, this is a Countdown deal so the price will gradually rise back up to $3.08 over a couple of days. Grab your copy while it is cheap!

Memories of the 1960s: Issue IV – Shopping

Shopping was confusing in the 1960s, even if you only had pocket money of one shilling to spend, as I did.

Threepenny Bit
Threepenny Bit

The old system of currency could be traced back to the Roman Empire and was based on the penny, symbolised by the letter ‘d’ for denari. Under this system, there were 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings, or 240 pence, in a pound. Needless to say, for a kid whose mathematical skills were still developing, I needed one of my parents with me to shop for anything at all!

Of course, things were much cheaper then. Most things for kids, such as singe records (45 rpm), toy cars and dollhouse items were much than one pound, so I could save up for a toy car roughly once every ten weeks.

We lived in a small town of about 20,000 people. We didn’t have a supermarket, so general shopping was a nightmare! The nearest was Sainsbury’s in another town, but my mum only occasionally went there for fresh fish, which was almost all it served. It looked more like a butcher shop or a pie shop, with white, marble slabs for meat and fish, green, decorative tiles near the ceiling and a white, decorative plaster-work ceiling. In our town, there was a huge, central car park, which was always packed, so my mum would often drive around the one-way system several times waiting to get in. From here, it was a systematic shop up and down the High Street, going to the British Gas showroom to pay the gas bill (which, I might add, was often the only warm shop in the Chiltern Hills harsh winters), then to shops for smaller items like magazines, books, shoes, clothes or – if you were lucky – toys. Sometimes you would go back to the car with the bags of shopping before visiting the food shops, because there was just so much to carry!

Food shops were butchers, bakers, delicatessens (for milk and dairy products), green grocers (for fruit, vegetables, spices, cereals and specialities) and, if you were lucky, sweet shops. By the time you had done all this, you were exhausted!

Shoe Fitting Fluoroscope
Shoe Fitting Fluoroscope

Shoe shopping was particularly interesting in the 1960s, which was just as well as I didn’t like getting new shoes; they were always too narrow for my feet and hurt for the first few weeks of wearing. There were these strange machines in the shops that reminded me of the Dr Who Tardis. You stood on a platform and the machine X-Rayed your feet to find exactly the right fitting for you. So basically we were subjecting ourselves to dangerous radiation just for a shoe-fitting, although we didn’t realise the danger at the time! The machines, I only found out recently, were called Shoe Fitting Fluoroscopes.

Although not strictly shopping, visits to the library were frequent, because books were expensive and beyond the budget of most kids. Even for a town of 20,000 people our library was only about the size of an average shop and very poorly stocked. In about 1969 we finally got the library we deserved in a large, modern and airy new building. It took a while for the shelves to be filled, but soon I was able to hunt down speciality books on all sorts of fields within WWII, which was my great interest at the time.

Woolworths in the 1960s
Woolworths in the 1960s

Even the least persuasive child could usually engineer a visit to Woolworths and Co. Woolies, as we affectionately called it, stocked just about everything, but most importantly, it had toys, records and sweets. 7 inch 45 rpm records were for single tracks, an A-side and B-side, the A-side being the hit single for say, the Beatles. A 45 rpm would be 9 shillings and 11 pence, the equivalent of 49p in decimalised currency. A 12 inch Long Playing record (or LP) was usually 19 shillings and six pence, the equivalent of 99p. My first LP was Geoff Love’s Big War Movie themes, which I still have.

If my mum wanted fresh bread, I would have to walk about a mile down an extremely steep hill to Darvell & Sons bakery. There I would wait for a hot, new, white loaf from the oven, which a girl or woman in a white coat would put in a paper bag for me. Unfortunately, the fragrance of fresh bread always proved too much for me, so by the time I had struggled all the way back up the hill, I would have picked a large hole out of the bottom of the loaf, hoping my mum wouldn’t notice!

There was very little frozen food in the 1960s. The only one I can remember was fish fingers. My evening meal was almost always either fish fingers, sausages or cold chicken, mashed potato or chips, and either peas, baked beans or fried eggs, all usually served with a slice of bread and butter and a glass of milk.

The toy shop was, of course, an Aladdin’s Cave of wonders! Ours, Litten’s Toys, was wonderfully furnished with wood-panelled walls and wooden cabinets. On the right hand side were all the items a girl could want, toy prams, bicycles, dolls, dolls houses etc., while on the left were bicycles for boys, models and a whole load of toy cars, all displayed in glass cases. Behind the serving counter, along the back wall, was a long cabinet, stacked to the roof with Dinky Toys, Corgi, and Matchbox boxes, all brightly coloured and begging to be bought! I remember the proprietor being a jovial guy, who never minded taking time to help you choose your purchase.

A special occasion would be a trip to Trewins in Watford. Trewins was a department store which had an even wider range of toys than Woolworths. My mum bought me a plastic toy friction-drive de Havilland Comet, which you could drag across the floor to wind up the clockwork drive and then release to let it run across the carpet on its own. These must have been the most popular present in Trewins that Christmas, because there was a whole table stacked with them. Later, my mum bought me a cattle truck, made by Budgie and still later, I bought a Corgi Ford Mercury Station Wagon.

A very special occasion, once every year, was a trip on the Underground train to Hamleys in London’s Regent Street. Hamleys proclaims itself the ‘Finest Toy Shop in the World and at about 7 floors over 2 buildings, it was a child’s dream. I reckon the ‘lost kids department’ (I kid you not, it existed) must have been very busy, because kids were always becoming separated from my parents. A Hornby train set ran right around one floor, but my favourite was a radio-controlled North American B-25 Mitchell that hung, motionless, from the ceiling. Every year I would look longingly at this beautiful, silver angel of the air, and wonder how I could get one. I am sure this is what led to my future hobby of first control-line model aircraft and later, radio-control.

Green Shield Stamps
Green Shield Stamps

If you had survived all this shopping, there was the long struggle back to the car – there were no shopping trolleys then – and the drive home. But this wasn’t always the end. There was often the stop at an Esso or Shell garage, where my mum would get Green Shield stamps in return for a certain amount of petrol. My mum would stick them in Green Shield Saver Books (or get me to do it, with a lot of licking) and collect them to exchange for things from the Green Shield Catalogue.

There were also coins and cards you could get with petrol, such as the Shell coins representing vintage cars, a collection I completed, and the Shell holographic World Wildlife cards, a set which I collected but never completed.

Shell Word Wildlife holographic cards
Shell Word Wildlife holographic cards

There is one last memory of pocket money that I want to mention. It may have been around 1970 that I first saw something entirely new in a small toy shop in a nearby town; a Tamiya kit of the Chieftain tank. Until then, model tanks, especially ones which were motorised, were not to scale and mostly pretty crude representations of the real thing. I was lucky in that my granddad was an experienced engineer and expert modeller, so he built me a Centurion tank, which was motorised. It ran for a few years, under constant repair, until either the motor of the drive wore out. I had long since lost it by 1970. But the Chieftain was not only a detailed scale model, but it could be motorised and even radio-controlled! I had to have one! I saved and saved, but it was £7.49, which was a lot of money for a child then. Tamiya was a Japanese company and this was the first of their models I had seen in the UK, so there was no alternative but to seek some kind of part-time work. I was lucky again here; my mother was a magazine editor, so she offered me work collating the magazine by hand. It was hard work but after about 13 weeks, I had enough money. I went to the shop with every last penny I had and guess what? The kit’s price had gone up to £7.99. Well, I was devastated, and exhausted. I must have decided something cheaper would be less work, because I never did buy the Tamiya Chieftain tank.

Decimalisation Day pack (this without 50p coin)
Decimalisation Day pack (this without 50p coin)

In about 1968, decimalisation was announced. This would make life much easier! Now, there would be 100 pennies to the pound and no more shillings. There would be a new 50 pence piece and no ha’penny bits, threepenny bits or farthings (which was worth 1/4 penny in old money). The old ‘d’ would be replaced with the ‘p.’ We were all excited with anticipation of the new world and had daily lessons at school using toy cash registers. On TV there were programmes about decimalisation almost every day, and when the day finally came in 1971, every child in the UK was issued with a small wallet, containing a mint example of each new coin. I think complete ones must be very rare now, because every kid I knew spent the lot within weeks; after all a pound was 2 weeks’ pocket money in those days!

What toys did you have in the 1960s? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Download three free eBooks by clicking here: http://bit.ly/3fbsup

Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon, has died.

New York Times – “Daniel Keyes, the author of “Flowers for Algernon,” the story of a man with an I.Q. of 68 who temporarily becomes a genius after surgery — a book that inspired the film “Charly,” starring Cliff Robertson — died on Sunday at his home in South Florida. He was 86.”

Read the full New York Times article.

I did a brief interview with Cliff, which you can read it on this blog. Stephen C Thompson, Cliff Robertson’s Press Agent, is making a documentary about the Academy Award winner’s life and the documentary will certainly discuss the film Charly. If you want to get involved in the film’s production hop over to the project ‘s Facebook page and give it a like!.

I reviewed both the novel Flowers for Algernon and the movie Charly on my blog in 2010.

Memories of the 1960s: Issue III – Toys. What are your memories?

There is a permanent page for Memories of the 1960s here.

Memories of the 1960s: Issue III – Toys

Corgi Toys Buick Riviera
Corgi Toys Buick Riviera

I was born in 1962. The first toys I remember are a fluffy ball with a bell inside, a red, plastic American train and a ‘musical box’, about the size of a food can, with a crank on top. As you turned the crank, metal tongues were flicked inside, much like an African lamellaphone. It had pictures of the royal guards and Buckingham Palace painted on its sides. I don’t remember what the tune was. I also had a Playcraft plastic train set (see below). All these toys seemed to be around since a time before I could remember anything clearly.

Playcraft Train Set
Playcraft Train Set

The first toy I remember actually receiving was a motorised tank. My dad came home late one night (it was always late when he came home for a kid that was at nursery school!) and presented me with this thing that drove up and down a pile of books on its own! My dad showed me how to open a book and turn it upside down so that its spine formed the ridge of a hill. The tank could go over this too. Continue reading “Memories of the 1960s: Issue III – Toys. What are your memories?”